Researchers in Washington state have published a report outlining new evidence that chemicals often used in commercial truck and car washes are a hazard to workers.
On Friday, the Centers for Disease Control published a report based on research conducted by the Washington Department of Labor and Industries. The research, which analyzed workers’ compensation reports from 2001 to 2013, found that 48 workers were burned by car wash products containing the chemical hydrofluoric acid. One worker also died after ingesting some of the product.
The CDC report noted that exposure to hydrofluoric acid (HF) “causes corrosive chemical burns and potentially fatal systemic toxicity.”
Exposure to hydrofluoric acid causes corrosive chemical burns and potentially fatal systemic toxicity… Because HF exposure can result in potentially severe health outcomes, efforts to identify less hazardous alternatives to HF-based industrial wash products are warranted.
The report also stated that most injured workers were car wash workers, auto detailers, truck wash workers, or truck drivers. The average age of injured workers was 29 and three were female.
Hydrofluoric acid is used to brighten aluminum and remove road grime. The Associated Press reported that the workers usually suffered burns to the head, eyes, or hands after handling the chemical. Seven of the 48 workers were hospitalized, three with third-degree burns. Two workers required surgery for the burns.
In one case, a worker splashed his left leg with the chemical after transferring solutions of HF and sulfuric acid between different containers. After inspecting the area about 90 minutes later, the worker had a brown necrotic area on his ankle and a burn to the lower leg. The worker was treated at the hospital but had some skin excised and required a skin graft and outpatient burn therapy.